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2478: Church of Antioch, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
Antioch Church, Santa Fe (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: MoboJobo.
The church: Church of Antioch, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.
Denomination: Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch, Malabar Rite. They are an independent Catholic church in the tradition of the Old Catholic Church of Utrecht.
The building: The church meets in the famous Loretto Chapel, a Gothic structure built in the period from 1873-1878 as the chapel of a school founded some years earlier by the Sisters of Loretto. Its stained glass is from the DuBois Studio in Paris. The chapel is best known for what is called the Miraculous Staircase leading up to the choir loft. The staircase makes two 360 degree turns and appears to have nothing supporting it. Wooden pegs, not nails, hold it together. It was built by an itinerant carpenter who appeared one day on the good sisters' doorstep just as they had finished praying a novena to St Joseph. Upon completion of the work, the carpenter vanished just as suddenly, without a trace and without taking pay. Legend has it that he was St Joseph himself. The chapel was deconsecrated in 1971 after the school was closed and now serves primarily as a museum and tourist attraction.
The church: According to their website, they are "a church of love" that "recognizes that everyone’s spiritual pathway is unique and different." They practice open communion, "just as the table of our Lord was open to all who came to him." They celebrate mass each Sunday and hold a healing service on the first Wednesday of each month.
The neighborhood: Downtown Santa Fe is a popular tourist destination. The attractions are the history – oldest church, oldest house, oldest capital in the United States – and art: Native American, Hispanic, modern, and southwestern. Santa Fe "invented" itself in the 1920s as a place defined by architecture. The Loretto Chapel sits between the historic Hotel La Fonda ("the inn at the end of the Santa Fe Trail") and the new Inn at Loretto, which is actually attached to the chapel. Across the street is a row of art galleries.
The cast: The Most Revd Daniel Dangaran, pastor and bishop in the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch, Malabar Rite, presided. He was assisted by the Revd Mother Carol Calvert, associate pastor.
The date & time: Christmas Day, December 25, 2012, 9.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Christmas Day Service.

How full was the building?
Full, about 60 people. Most people in Santa Fe came from "somewhere else:" liberal, New Age, into anything spiritual. And yet they were genuinely a community, welcoming and celebrating Christmas.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes. We arrived early as the choir of about six were still rehearsing, and two choristers invited us to join them. As worshippers began to arrive, at least three others greeted us, plus all the people sitting around us.

Was your pew comfortable?
It was a standard pew, with a kneeler that wasn't used.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was a lot of greeting each other, especially because it was a holiday. The actual service was preceded by about a half hour of Christmas carols. This was followed by two songs from the choir. And, because it was very informal, some more Christmas carols before the official start.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to the Church of Antioch. Merry Christmas!"

What books did the congregation use during the service?
An information folder about the church, a folder of hymns, and A Celtic Mass assembled by Mother Carol Calvert.

What musical instruments were played?
Piano, organ and guitar.

Did anything distract you?
The theology: syncretic and schismatic. Maybe no one besides the retired archbishop, the bishop (an ex-Jesuit), and us noticed. The carols, for example, were all altered to inclusive language. The angels wished "Good will to all." The prayers referenced "Father/Mother God." One reference in the liturgy asserted that "the Master Jesus achieved Christhood" – both Gnostic and adoptive Christology. But no one (else) seemed to notice.

Antioch Church, Santa Fe (Staircase)
Photo: Rotatebot and used under license

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Liturgical, of course. Last time we went to a schismatic Catholic church, it was pre-Vatican-II; this is New Age. The Druid Prayer on the back of the mass folder suggests that anything religious is included.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – Bishop Dangaran stepped down to the front of the church and spoke informally.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
God dwells in everything and in each of us. May the Christ asleep in each of us be born to release us from judgment and negativity. Religion is not about control, and especially guilt. God just loves you. The rest doesn't matter. The good news is that God loves – anyway – and totally accepts you. Become humble, become compassionate, and God is reborn in you. God doesn't have face, hands, or feet: He needs yours to do what he would do. Forgiving means "for giving" another try; Christ rises every day, every moment.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Being in Loretto Chapel, which is historic, religious, and beautiful. The people were genuinely welcoming and consciously affirming. The message: God loves in a more unconditional manner than man can conceive.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The conscious New-Age inclusion of anything and everything spiritual or politically correct. The apparently undiscriminating theology.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
The bishop offered personal blessings, which about 90 per cent of the congregation accepted.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There wasn't any, but the Inn at Loretto has an excellent restaurant.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 – Friendly people, beautiful experience, strange theology. But maybe the Holy Spirit doesn't care about theology.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, the welcome and worship combined with the unique location.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
"The Master Jesus achieved Christhood."
 
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